Heading into the third season of Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg's Cobra Kai, viewers knew that something had to give in the long-running rivalry between Johnny (William Zabka) and Daniel (Ralph Macchio). stories. Picking up the pieces of a pretty rough second-season finale and facing the very dangerous threat posed by Kreese (Martin Kove), each of them needed to confront ghosts from their pasts to keep the same mistakes from the past from repeating themselves. Plus? Kreese is definitely not someone who should be molding young minds and influencing future generations (and that's being kind). So how were things left when the dust settled on the season finale? Well, the show's creators spoke to EW about where things were left this season and how it sets up the narrative for Season 4- but you know what that means? We're throwing on the "MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!" sign because that's what awaits after the image bumper.
Thankfully, Daniel's Miyagi-Do and Johnny's Eagle Fang (sweet name) dojos are putting aside their drama and looking to go Avengers: Endgame to take down Kreese- thanks to a returning Ali Mills Schwarber (Elisabeth Shue) smoothing things over with the older folks and Sam (Mary Mouser) rallying the 'Degrassi' contingency. But does Kreese have two aces up in his sleeve waiting to be played in the form of Robby (Tanner Buchanan) and the return of a certain The Karate Kid Part III big bad? And are there any new updates on Aisha (Nichole Brown) returning? Hurwitz, Schlossberg, and Heald address those topics in the following highlights (and you can check out the full interview here):
When They Knew the Johnny/Daniel Team-Up was the Right Time: "We've always known from the beginning that putting Johnny and Daniel in scenes together is a combustible and hilarious and tense situation all at the same time. And in those early seasons, taking those moments to put them in scenes together, there's these little flare-ups — Oh, they're going to fight! Oh, they're going to argue! And it gets to a place of, Johnny's coming to Daniel's house and it looks like they're going to duke it out in the backyard," Heald explained.
"Gradually, we see their relationship get to a place where they have common interests, they have a common enemy, and they still can't really make it work. They're trying at the beginning of season 3 to get there and it once again devolves, and they actually throw some punches. It's only when the stakes get high enough that it's almost a last resort for them both to say, "We're going to fight through this. We're going to make this uncomfortable thing happen for the greater good." We know that that's a moment that you really get once in this series to play — the moment that they actually come together. We've seen other series pull it off. Jon and I watch Billions regularly, and that moment where Chuck and Axe finally sit down and decide, "Let's do this" — you're ending the season on a "Yeah!" moment as opposed to the gut-punch of how season 2 ends."
Heald continued, "We were gradually always getting to this point, this apex in the series, but we also are always modulating the ins and outs of seasons and, and cliffhangers can have different textures. This one felt right at this time to finally enter this portion of their relationship."
How the Idea of Bringing Elisabeth Shue's Ali Back Developed: "Obviously, like pretty much every Karate Kid fan, the three of us fell in love with Ali and have been huge fans of Elisabeth Shue's for decades now. We knew when starting the show that this character, who really was at the center of the conflict between our two leads, has the opportunity to provide a really valuable impact when she eventually shows up. We've had a sense of what we wanted to do for a while, but the timing has always been the question, as to when is the exact right moment," Hurwitz explained.
"We felt the way the stories were weaving and what we were building to at the end of the season — where you wanted Johnny and Daniel to be pushed to that place where it's time for them to forget the past and come together — that it was an impactful way for Ali to return on the show. [She can] help these guys look in the mirror and recognize that perhaps they're not so different after all."
Hurwitz continued: "On top of that, it was really finding a way for her to advance her character in a way where there's intrigue for us going forward. She's lived a life, and it's a life that we're interested in and we could perhaps see again one day. But beyond that, it's making sure that [Ali] had meaningful scenes with both Johnny and Daniel [as they] reflect on their past together. [There were] some things that we knew and you get to see in a whole new light, and other things that we never knew about the past that she shared with them. For the three of us, working with Elisabeth Shue was everything we could have hoped it would be, and then some. The fact that every once in a while, I'll get a text or a phone call and I see Elisabeth Shue's phone number show up on my phone is one of the greatest joys of my life, because I get to talk about Karate Kid with her, and other things. She's as cool a person as we all felt Ali was."
On the Status of Nichole Brown's Aisha: "No one's ever written out of our show. What we like are enormous ensembles that have ins and outs. It makes the most of entrances and exits. You saw in season 3 that we brought back [Bret Ernst as] Louie LaRusso, we brought back [Joe Seo as] Kyler, we brought back [Bo Mitchell as] Brucks, who were all absent in season 2. When we're beginning to break [the season's storylines], if we don't feel that we're going to be able to pay enough story for 20 characters, at times we will find interesting ways of paring it down," Heald explained. "[The goal is] to pack more of a punch when characters come back. Sometimes that's characters coming back from the legacy franchise, sometimes that's characters coming back from our series. So I'll say nobody ever leaves the show for good in our minds, and there always is a strategy and a reason story-wise for why they come in and out, and it serves the long story that we're telling."
So What Can They Tell Us About KKIII "Big Bad" Terry Silver Returning? "It was really fun for us in season 3 to bring back Terry Silver, but in a way that you've never seen before in those flashbacks," Hurwitz said. "We know how beloved the character Terry is and he is to us as well. We went so far as to introduce a character early on who has a ponytail, and you're all excited and you're like, "Oh my God, it's Terry Silver!" And then [we] kill that character, and then revealed soon after that the other guy was Terry Silver. He's a character that we have a lot of fun with."
That said, Hurwitz still isn't willing to confirm or deny who was on the other end of the phone call with Kreese. "At the end of the season, you saw Kreese make a phone call. You could guess who might've been on the other end of that call based off of the photo that he was looking at there," the co-creator teased. "But we can't really speak to how Terry Silver would respond to that call — or whoever was on the other end of the line would respond to that call. I think you'll have to see if that character returns in season 4."
COBRA KAI Season 3 finds everyone reeling in the aftermath of the violent high school brawl between their dojos, which has left Miguel in a precarious condition. While Daniel searches for answers in his past and Johnny seeks redemption, Kreese further manipulates his vulnerable students with his own vision of dominance. The soul of the Valley is at stake, and the fate of every student and sensei hangs in the balance.